How We Educate Students

The Academy’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Program is a comprehensive strategy designed to educate students about sexual assault. We strive to create resonant lessons and events, at every grade level, that help students fully understand how to handle sexual situations and inappropriate behavior. We periodically administer the Youth Risk Behavior Survey and use the data to adjust our programs. Core elements of the program include:

Peer Education — We empower students to communicate with each other about sexual assault through a variety of groups, including H4, a student peer education health group. This group periodically hosts dinners on health topics, which are attended by students and faculty. Active Minds sponsors interactive exhibits that encourage students to recognize and voice feelings about sexuality and mental health issues. Other efforts, like the Student Health Advisory Board, Active Listeners, Dorm Proctors, and Student Listeners all support peer education efforts. A profile of Exeter’s student listeners, “Leading with Empathy,” is available online, as well as an Exeter Bulletin feature on the impact and importance of the proctor-prep connection.

Assemblies and Presentations — We host speakers and presentations that help students understand healthy behaviors and positive decision-making. These speakers often spend additional time with students in the classroom, affording an opportunity for follow-up discussions. Recent presentations have included: "Safety and Numbers: Exeter Social Norms that Prevent Violence," a program on bystander prevention of sexual violence presented by Prevention Innovations Research Center; Peggy Orenstein, author of Girls & Sex and Cinderella Ate My Daughter (watch her March 31 presentation on demand); William Hirsch, co-producer of "Audrie and Daisy," a documentary about the aftermath of high school sexual assault (watch his March 24 assembly); Alan Berkowitz, who discussed bystander intervention at an assembly titled "Creating a Safe and Welcoming Exeter Community for All" (watch his Feb. 17 assembly); Eric Barthold, founder of “Man Up and Open Up,” who focused on images of masculinity and ways to open them up to prevent sexual assault (watch his Oct. 18 assembly); Cindy Pierce, author of Sexploitation: Helping Kids Develop Healthy Sexuality in a Porn-Driven World and Sex, College, and Social Media: A Commonsense Guide to Navigating the Hookup Culture, who presented at assembly and led an evening discussion with student proctors, student listeners, team leaders and other interested students. Presentations last year include: Debby Herbenick '94, a highly-regarded sex researcher and educator (watch her April 19, 2016 assembly); SLUT: The Play, performed by The Arts Effect, a youth theater group focused on “engaging people of all ages and genders in conversations about sexism, sexual shaming and assault”; and showings of “The Hunting Ground,” a documentary about sexual assault on college campuses. Previous to these, we hosted Catharsis Productions’ “Sex Signals” program: a two-person, interactive, improvisational program delivered by educators that addressed the stereotypes, assumptions and behaviors that influence dating and sexual encounters on campuses.

Health Education — Our courses are designed to be developmentally appropriate. We aim to foster an environment where students can speak openly and directly about these complicated issues and hash out the complexities inherent in sexual communications and decision-making.

  • “Teen Health Matters” is a yearlong, required course for new preps (freshmen) and lowers (sophomores) that explores a variety of health issues, including relationships, sex and sexuality.
  • A spring-term required course for all seniors, “Crossroads: Your Future, Your Health,” is designed to prepare students for the transition from high school to a college or career setting. The seminar addresses a wide-range of topics related to health and well-being and is guided by relevant available data.
  • Inside and outside the classroom, we teach students to understand the implications of sexual activity, to recognize the difference between healthy sexual behavior and unhealthy behavior, to recognize the signs of harassment or assault, and to take appropriate action to prevent inappropriate sexual behavior, harassment or assault.
  • Communication and decision-making skills are themes that run throughout the courses.
  • We learn what boundaries are and how to set limits.
  • We explain legal definitions and standards, as well as school rules.
  • Our senior elective courses provide additional pathways: “The Human Pursuit of Euphoria,” where we discuss sexual assault, especially around the use of alcohol and other drugs; “A Study of Human Sexuality,” where we go in depth with these issues; and “The Power Within: Philosophy and Science of Optimal Health,” which explores modern-day behavioral science and neuroscience for guidance on well-being.
  • Our Department of Health and Human Development faculty also assist in the training of dorm proctors, student listeners, and collaborate with their peers on how to best address these issues with students.

Customized Bystander Training Program — We’re working with Prevention Innovations Research Center (PIRC) at the University of New Hampshire, praised by the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault, on a comprehensive sexual and relationship violence and stalking prevention program customized for PEA students. PIRC has provided strategic consultation to the PEA administrative team; conducted focus groups with students, faculty and staff members; convened a work group of students, faculty and staff to contribute to the prevention strategies specific to PEA; and will conduct a social norms survey with students in the beginning of the winter 2016-2017 term. We will pilot and evaluate the adapted preventions strategies in the winter and spring 2017 terms and implement the comprehensive prevention strategies beginning in fall 2017.

Other Support Programs and Services:

  • The House Calls program, where faculty members do short educational workshops for student clubs, dorms and teams, is available upon request.
  • Additional support, including a team of professional counselors, is available for any student who would like to address their questions or concerns in a private, one-on-one setting. This academic year, students and faculty have participated in expanded efforts to address and prevent sexual assault through further awareness and education.
  • Students can seek help, for themselves or a peer, through the Academy Student Assistance Program, which integrates support from professional counselors, health educators, advisers and parents.
  • At the beginning of the year, faculty advisers engaged students in a discussion about expected behavior and supporting one another with respect, decency and trust in our own community. Advisers meet weekly with their group of students to check in on the students’ health and wellness.
  • Exonians Against Sexual Assault (EASA) is a student club that seeks to create a respectful and empowering campus where sexual harassment and sexual misconduct are not tolerated. They accomplish this through facilitating discussions on how to intervene and prevent sexual misconduct at Exeter and providing peer support/leadership in creating a safe campus for all members of the community.
  • The student club Feminist Union hosted a panel discussion made up of teachers, deans, counselors and students to discuss sexual issues.
  • The Student Council separately hosted Principal MacFarlane and the deans from the Dean of Students Office to engage in discussions on sexual issues.
  • An assembly hosted by the Student Council included a panel of healthcare providers who provided greater familiarity and clarity regarding the services the Academy offers to reinforce how students reach out to these providers.

Other Academic Disciplines — There are a number of courses in our curriculum that address these issues in a number of different ways. Continual education is a critical part of our ability to reach students and further understanding of sexual assault. Our Courses of Instruction is available online.

Additionally, we are continuing to review our educational programming to ensure the Academy is providing the necessary curriculum and developmentally appropriate programming for all students.